July 29, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has come out against the plan to build a $2 billion AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport and said she does not want the federal government to allocate COVID-19 relief funds to support the project.
The future of the project to construct a 1.5-mile AirTrain from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport is uncertain, as the coronavirus pandemic has delivered a major blow to the state economy and budget.
At the end of May, Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to help fund Port Authority infrastructure projects, including the AirTrain, which he said would have the added benefit of giving the economy a boost.
However, many residents who live near the proposed route don’t want the project and thus oppose federal funding for it.
Ocasio-Cortez came out against the plan today in the wake of local groups calling up various congress members– in a coordinated effort– asking them to block the allocation of federal funds for the LGA AirTrain.
The congresswoman released a statement today in which she said bailing out the project would be a slap in the face to the surrounding East Elmhurst community — one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.
“While state and local funding is desperately needed in the next COVID-19 relief package, it would be the ultimate insult to finally send aid to this community in the form of a project that they firmly oppose and that could further jeopardize their health and safety,” she said.
The AirTrain would provide a link between the Willets Point Station and the airport. The public could access the Willets Point Station via the Long Island Railroad or 7 train and then take it to LaGuardia Airport.
However, many residents argue that the 7-train is typically overcrowded and can’t support additional riders, particularly those with luggage.
The raised tracks would be built along the Flushing Bay waterfront, which has also raised concern among environmentalists.
Guardians of Flushing Bay, a local coalition that has been critical of the LGA AirTrain, organized a call to action against funding the project earlier this month.
“The AirTrain is an unnecessary vanity project,” the group posted on Twitter. They asked Queens residents to call their representatives about the plan at the start of July.
Ocasio-Cortez, today, said she stands with the coalition, as well as several other community groups and Queens Community Board 3 that oppose the AirTrain project.
“Until such time as a new route is identified, or the community’s concerns are sufficiently alleviated, no federal COVID-19 relief funding should be granted to the Port Authority for the purpose of constructing the AirTrain,” she said.
It’s not the first time the Congresswoman has criticized the project.
In January, she wrote a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration questioning why the agency rejected several alternative plans for transportation to LaGuardia Airport.
However, the project does have some support.
A coalition of economic development groups, unions, civic stakeholders and local businesses known as “A Better Way to LGA” are backing the project.
The group argues that the AirTrain would reduce traffic on Grand Central Parkway and local streets, ease parking issues and car pollution, and provide reliable, predictable travel times for LaGuardia travelers. The proposed route would also not displace any local residents or businesses.
The coalition includes the Queens Chamber of Commerce, the Queens EDC and the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation among others.